Anaxis was the first to awake from the airship crash. He opened his eyes to see Xala’s long hair tussled and tossed over her head. The woman was folded over herself against the wall of the ship, which had holes in it from the drone blasts that let the moonlight in.
Anaxis sat up and turned. Mills was next to him on the other side, his face down. There was a soft rustling noise coming from somewhere outside the craft. Anaxis checked to make sure he wasn’t injured, then gave Mills a gentle shake.
“Hey!” he whispered. “Mills. Mills. Mills.”
Mills twitched and then started to groan.
“Mills,” said Anaxis, “Wake up.”
Mills groaned again. “I’m tired, though,” he said.
“Mills, there’s something outside.”
With another groan, Mills sat up. He smacked his lips and looked around the ship with a look of mild confusion.
“Anaxis?” he asked. “What are you doing here?”
“Don’t you remember?” Anaxis asked in response.
Mills stared at the floor for a moment, then his eyes went wide. He looked up at Anaxis with a mix of fear and amazement. “We’re alive!” He looked over at Xala. “Is she?”
“I don’t know, yet,” answered Anaxis.
“I’m alive, for better or worse,” Xala answered. “I haven’t felt this awful in years, though. I’m tied in a knot.”
The rustling noise outside the ship started to come closer.
“What’s that?” Mills asked.
“I don’t know,” Anaxis answered. “I only just woke up myself.”
Xala’s lower half slowly bended over her top, until she was stretched out on the floor of the airship. “Okay, that was all I’ve got. I won’t be able to move again for about a day or so,” she said.
“Really?” asked Mills.
“No, not really,” Xala answered.
“Oh, you’re joking,” said Mills.
A loud bang sounded through the busted cabin.
“What is that?” Anaxis asked Xala.
“Could be anything,” she answered.
A peering eye popped into one of the blast holes, eliciting a shriek from the three within.
The eye peered around the cabin, then disappeared. Seconds later, Orn opened the door off its broken hinges. “You’re awake,” he said.
“You’re alive,” said Mills.
“More or less,” said Orn. He put his hands on his hips and stared into the cabin.
“Is anyone else?” asked Xala.
“Cine is dead,” said Orn. “Laquin is missing.”
“How long has it been since we crashed?” asked Xala.
“It was only earlier today,” said Orn. “I woke up before sunset. I’ve salvaged what I can from the wreckage.”
“Where are we?” Xala asked.
“Somewhere in Far Country,” Orn answered. “I can’t be sure, the only location systems we had are damaged.”
“What are we going to do?” asked Mills.
“We’re going to have to find our way back,” Orn answered.
“Back to Talx?” asked Anaxis.
“Back to Haven,” Orn responded. “It will be no easy task.”
“How far are we?” asked Xala.
“Very far,” Orn answered. His head whipped around as if something had startled him immensely. He searched the moonlit desert for a short time, then turned back around.
“What was that?” Xala asked.
“Thought I heard a Yuta,” Orn answered.
“What’s a Yuta?” asked Mills.
“Horrible scavenger creature,” Orn answered. “Are you thirsty and hungry?”
“I am thirsty, yes,” said Anaxis.
“Well come on out here, I’ve got something to eat over in the salvage pile,” said Orn.
“But what about the Yuta?” Mills asked.
“You’re safer where you can run than sitting in here,” said Orn. “They’re monsters, but they’re slow.”
Mills turned to Anaxis for motivation.
“Alright, let’s go, Mills,” Anaxis said. “Can you get up, Xala?”
“I think so,” the instructor responded.
Orn stepped into the ship and offered his hand for Xala’s assistance.
“Thank you, Orn, was it?” she said as she stood.
“That’s right,” Orn answered.
“Do you remember our names?” Xala asked.
“Never knew them,” said Orn. “Come on.”
The three villagers from Talx stumbled out into the cold desert air. Pieces of the ship were scattered in a line to where the bulk of the craft was smashed into a rock fin. Cine’s mangled body could still be seen through the crumpled front end.
“Will the drones return in the daylight?” Xala asked as she followed after Orn.
“They’re always on patrol,” he answered. “But they don’t track life forms, only aircraft and ground vehicles.”
“So we’re safe from them,” said Xala.
“From the drones, yes,” Orn said. “But we’ve got Yuta, Haxarav, Tinra, desert heat, a dozen other things to worry about now.”
“What are we going to do?” Mills asked.
“Try not to die,” answered Orn. “Here’s what’s left of our food. Have a seat. I’ll heat the water.”
As stoic Orn got a meager meal together, the three villagers looked around at one another and their circumstance.
“Are we going to be okay, Xala?” asked Mills.
“We’re alive, which is a good start,” Xala answered.
“Alive for now,” said Orn. “Try not to talk. It attracts the monsters.”
The four ate their food silently as the moons passed overhead.
I will be embarking on a month-long road trip starting tomorrow, and so for a few days here and there my daily serial, The Valor Saga: Falling Star, may or may not be exactly daily. But I am gaining inspiration from my trip, which will feed the tale of Anaxis and his strange odyssey. In the meantime, the last book in the Legend of Alm series that was published, The Final Hour, is FREE for Kindle from Sept. 2-6. Grab a copy!
LINK TO FREE KINDLE DOWNLOAD
Graham M. Irwin
The gleaming airship zipped over the desert sands with a jet-black drone in close pursuit.
“Hang on!” Cine called to the stunned passengers in the back of the craft. “We’re heading into a tight canyon!”
The ship pitched up and then dropped down over the edge of a deep canyon, then rolled hard to the left as it sank, tossing Mills onto Anaxis’s lap.
“Sorry!” Mills said, scrambling to get back up.
“It’s fine, hold on!” said Anaxis.
Before Mills could get himself seated on the bench in the passenger cabin, Cine over-corrected the ship’s position in the narrow canyon with a swing to the right, throwing Anaxis, Mills, and Xala onto the floor. The ship rode up the right side of the canyon, then back up the left before Cine regained control and leveled out.
“It’s still on our tail!” Orn called from the back of the ship.
The drone started firing rockets, which blew huge chasms into of the canyon walls. The airship jumped and ducked to avoid the debris.
“Projectile coming straight for us, Cine!” Orn hollered.
Cine pushed the airship low under a tumbling mass of rock, which the rocket smashed into with a fiery explosion.
“We’ve got smoke cover!” Orn shouted.
“Okay, brace yourselves, everyone!” Cine answered.
He rolled the airship under a wide rock arch. The drone came out of the smoke from the explosion with no time to correct itself. It ran straight into the rock arch, destroying the structure and itself in an instant.
“Got it!” Orn whooped.
“Two more coming in, Cine!” Laquin called from an observation bubble on top of the airship.
The new drones descended blasting away, turning the walls of the canyon into fire.
“We’re gonna pull out,” Cine called back from the cockpit. “Get ready!”
The airship pulled a barrel roll up out of the canyon. The rockets on its tail just missed the ship and hit one another, creating an explosion that engulfed the ship in flame. Cine pulled out of the blast and downward, so quickly that the passengers in the back of the ship were lifted up off floor. They hovered briefly until Cine leveled out, just before smashing into the desert floor, then dropped back onto the floor with hard smacks.
“Sorry!” he shouted. “What’s their position, Laquin?”
“Still hot after us,” he answered.
“I spot an overhang up ahead,” Cine said. “Gonna try to lose them in it.”
The airship rolled onto its side, throwing the passengers again. It accelerated toward the overhang in the distance as the drones came closer and closer. Cine pulled the ship around the curvature of the rock wall beneath the overhang, almost grazing it with the belly of the craft. One of the drones was able to follow him, but the other smashed into the wall and caused the overhang to crumble down on top of it.
“Got one!” Orn shouted. “Still one more with us!”
“Sorry back there!” Cine hollered. “This should lose it for good!”
The airship shot up into an ascending spiral, whirling around the blasts from the drone’s turrets. After three rotations, Cine pulled the airship over a half-loop and into a descending spiral.
“Head for the rock fin,” Laquin called to the pilot.
“I see it,” Cine said. “Here we go!”
The airship came out of its spiral and rotated just in time to miss colliding with the towering rock fin rising up from the desert floor.
“Did we lose it?” he asked.
“Can’t tell yet,” Orn answered.
The drone suddenly reappeared from the other side of the fin and blasted two rockets at the airship.
“It came around the other side!” Laquin screamed. “We’ve got two rockets right on us!”
Cine tried to pull the ship up and out of the path of the projectiles, but they stuck close and struck their target. One of the airship’s wings exploded and the ship began to go into a tailspin.
“I can’t stop it!” Cine called. “We’re going down! Hang on tight!”
The drone continued blasting at the ship as it careened toward the ground. Charges riddled the body of the ship with holes as the passengers screamed in horror.
With a thick trail of black smoke billowing from its exploded engine, the airship fell from the sky. It hit the desert with its underside nearly parallel to the terrain and skidded, before smashing into another huge stone fin. The cockpit crumpled under the force, killing Cine immediately. The passengers in the back of the ship had fallen unconscious in the smoldering ship from the tailspin, and were left in the middle of the desert by the drone, which continued without pause on its patrol.